View this post on Instagram
“I get what you’re trying to say, but your post is so full of ego…Say it with love.”
This stranger’s comment on an Elephant Journal article about doing important shadow work used to have the power to stop me in my tracks.
I consider myself a compassionate person. I believe in the power of kindness, and, if we met in person, I like to think you’d describe me that way.
But, I also believe there are limits to what kindness can do. Sometimes, the only antidote to an action or feeling is a deep and powerful call to action with a voice to match.
The voice I used in my article was just that.
And I wasn’t about to “say it with love” when I’d already said it with power.
As females, we are conditioned through endless shame, cajoling, and reminders to “mind our tone.” We are taught to dance with grace around truths, because no matter how softly we speak, someone is always there to remind us to add more “sugar” and less “spice” to our words.
We are so trained to be fearful of overstepping, that we often under-step.
If we are about to say something to an internet troll or in a Facebook group, we often bounce it off another person—usually a woman—just to make sure the tone and wording are “just so.” We never want to say anything that someone else could get triggered by, offended about, or even disagree with.
And if we do, we are almost sure to receive a memo from the tone police:
“Say it with kindness.”
“Soften your tone.”
“You could have expressed that differently.”
It seems that our cultural imperative is that women speak with only the kindest, softest words, no matter if it dilutes our positions or opinions.
But it’s time to say a big f*ck you to “just so.”
It’s time to embrace a cultural tolerance for direct approaches, assertive tones, and strong voices in women. We need to offer women space to express opinions that we can stand in, firmly, and not back down from.
We need to open the floor for women to engage in conversations that are not always oriented toward being nurturing and soft and intuitive and “feminine.” Because women are often sitting at the table with more than enough authority, education, and information to speak.
Women, as truth-tellers, need to find ways to harness our ability to spur change through our written and spoken word.
And to do so with confidence.
If we are walking toward a cliff, not watching where we are going, we need to be shouted at to stop. We’re not going to react to kindly whispers of, “If you take one more step in that direction, you’re going to fall to your death.” It wouldn’t work. We would not hear the whisper.
But we wouldn’t fail to respond to the shout, even if it lacked kindness. We’d respond because someone cared so much about us and what could have happened that they chose to shout.
Truths need to be said. Sometimes it is the energy of fire, not water, that calls attention to important issues. Frustration, anger, annoyance—these are places to acknowledge within us as well, and they also have a place in creating change.
The same thing is true about our lives. We care about these things and we want to make the world a better place. And, we know that we cannot kumbaya our way there.
No amount of real, positive change in our world has been made through kindness and pleases and patience. Men never “gave” women the right to vote—women took it with their fierceness and their tenacity and their fire.
Black Lives Matter is not a group focused on “niceness.” Their focus is on equality and justice—and these things require fire.
There is a saying: “If you have a choice between telling the truth and being kind, always be kind.” But sometimes, we need to be noticed. We need to ensure we can speak, share, and live with clarity, passion, and intuition.
Kindness for the sake of kindness rolls off the back. It’s like water. No one notices the woman “kindly” sitting in the corner.
The spiritual world teaches that everything we do should come from love. Love isn’t always soft, or passive, and it’s not even gentle. It’s a force, one that can speak through, even in the most satirical, angry kinds of voices.
While studying with a yoga teacher, I asked her about the large image of Kali, the goddess of death and destruction, she had hanging in her space. She replied that Kali was, above all, a mother, and her fierceness came from a mother’s love for her children. That once you understood her nature, you definitely wanted her on your side—because she would destroy your enemies.
Women have an incredible amount of masculine energy, and we know it when we see it: it’s the vision of “mama bear.”
That’s the energy we come with, and live with—a mother’s love. It doesn’t always sound soft or sweet. It’s not always perceived as kind. But it is all fueled with love—love for all human beings, love for our planet, and love for self.
Love is a powerful force; there’s no denying that. But it’s not the only force available to us. It’s not the only tool in our toolbox. And too often, the softness of love is dismissed and ignored.
It might be true that everything we do comes from love, but that doesn’t mean it always looks kind and sweet. We’re not necessarily so much interested in “speaking with love” if love must be spoken softly.
We are messy, we are raw, we are real, and we are imperfect. And we need to be allowed to speak, in all our realness and rawness.
We are not little women with a hobby. We are purpose-driven and passionate.
If we can be compassionate toward others, we don’t need to obsess about kindness. Compassion allows us to see another’s point of view, understand the common humanity in it, and respond to it as we would a friend. Provided we can hold compassion in our being, we don’t need tone police, we don’t need moderation, and we don’t need to soften our every word.
It is a tool that allows us to be both fierce and tender.
And let’s remember, we don’t express only the kindest, most positive things to our friends or family. Sometimes the harder truths are the ones we grow the most from.
We have culturally browbeaten women into believing that only their tenderness is to be expressed.
We can express what we need to, how we need to, when we need to.
We can share love, when love is needed.
We can share passion, when passion is needed.
We can speak softly and gently and lovingly, but also firmly and with boundaries and strength.
And we can continue to change the damn world.